Measuring more than 2 metres

After a cold, wet, windy and bleak winter which saw floods in many parts of the country and waterlogged gardens in many more, this week has given us a taste of what we can only hope will be brighter days ahead. With the current coronavirus pandemic and the fear of its effects and consequences stalking many of us anything to bring cheer and distraction had to be welcome. 

I've lost count of the number of experts and commentators advising people to look to the small wonders of nature to cheer them up. On the radio, television and in almost every magazine someone is extolling the beneficial effects of being in nature, with the trees, watching and listening to the birds, gazing at the sky, admiring the leaves and flowers. It has been shown, we are told, to reduce stress and anxiety. 

Splash of colour7 March 2020

So I count myself among the luckiest, here in my home at The Sticks. Social distancing isn't so much of a challenge. We have been keeping ourselves busy here for the two and a half years since I retired. Brexit related political campaigning aside, we didn't go out much and then only occasionally for provisions or to walk the dog. We have access to the countryside without going anywhere and most of what we need we order on line and have delivered. In a way this lockdown for us is mostly business as usual, the most significant change being the two metres distance we maintain with the postman, other delivery drivers and the occasional people we come across when walking the dog. And of course not being able to drop in on my parents.

Dogs, it seems, are a useful aid to observing the required "social distancing". For the last few weeks I've noticed that as we approached dog walkers coming in the opposite direction we and they would call our dogs to heel,  take several steps off the path and go through an elaborate charade of passing at a very wide distance apart - significantly more than two metres - as though for the purpose of keeping the dogs apart. For their part the dogs do not seem impressed. They flash that puzzled look: "why can't we greet our mates in the way that we dogs do - sniff, bow, circle, sniff? Have you forgotten that's why we like coming out walking? I may as well stay at home and play with that big stick."

Cody with stick

Possibly not everyones idea of a good time but I have found an odd way of dealing with stress: pulling up nettle roots and fighting rampant brambles. Yes, I know the nettles are good for the insects, but we'll still have plenty left when I've finished. I'm under no illusion that I can ever defeat them but I'm trying to banish them to the edges and less accessible parts of the garden. Last week I spent a couple of backbreaking but otherwise satisfying hours tearing out a small patch of nettle roots and sowing a couple of packets of meadow flower seeds in the old riding arena as part of an experiment to see if I can turn it into a sort of wildflower meadow.  Time will tell.

Arena 2020 March 

Another part of our project to repurpose the old arena is to extend the vegetable garden. Last October we had a poly-tunnel delivered, just before the wet weather (and the general election campaign) started. It has been stored away since. Our aim was to erect it before the end of March and we were rapidly running out of time so when the sun came out last weekend we set to. My dad, 90 this year, a retired school teacher but formerly of the building trade with many qualifications in surveying, levelling, building construction and other facets of the trade, had been keen to help.  And to be honest we value and need his expertise. 

We were a little worried about him coming to help, but he was convinced that our lifestyle meant that his risk was low; we would be outside and he'd try to stick to the 2 metre distancing, he was taking this seriously he assured us - he'd persuaded my mum she shouldn't go to church! So he came for a few hours each day over the weekend during which time we laid the concrete for the first two sides of the base. He'd come again on Wednesday to help with the other two sides.

shuttering part2

But by Wednesday the lockdown had started and so his contribution - more necessary advice - was by phone and we have sent him photos of our progress. The whole base is now laid and on Sunday next - weather permitting, as the forecast suggests there may be snow - we will begin to erect the tunnel itself.